I Am A Camera

Kristen & Vivienne -- Photo by Linda Berneburg

Anyone familiar with me knows that I have a camera on my person at all times. If you see me walking down the street, I have a camera. I’m here, therefore I shoot.

Wait. My first post for GeekMom and I’ve told a lie. The truth is that I’m usually carrying anywhere from 3 to 4 cameras most of the time. My daughter, Vivienne is coming up on 17 months and she’s already more photographed than Princess Di. No joke – we’re talking necessary-2-terabyte-external-hard-drive kind of photographed.

The thousands of pictures are the result of a perfect storm. It starts with the fact that I’m, of course, very much in love with my little girl and find her utterly FASCINATING. It’s also because I keep my DSLR on “burst” mode, a little trick I learned in photography class for “not missing a moment.” Some of it is because I’ve been a writer over at G4 TV for years, a very tech-oriented network, so I’m very interested in and attracted to the latest cameras with their shiny bells and whistles.  And of course, there’s a dash of something I like to call: WHAT THE HECK IS MY PROBLEM I THINK I AM ADDICTED TO CAMERAS PLEASE SEND HELP.

So, going back to our imaginary scenario where you “see me walking down the street,” you can rest assured that in my diaper bag, I am carrying my Canon s95 point and shoot (which just replaced my Canon SD940 as of this Christmas) and my Flip Mino HD.  And of course, in one of my pockets somewhere will be my ubiquitous iPhone, which doubles as a still and video camera in a pinch. And depending on how hectic my morning was, I will be lugging my Nikon D90 around too.

Maybe it sounds excessive, but for realzz and true, each one serves a unique purpose.  The DSLR takes gorgeous photos, so why a point and shoot too?  Because a) sometimes I don’t want to lug the Nikon around and b) sometimes you can grab moments with a point and shoot that you just can’t get with a DSLR.

As for the point and shoot vs. the Flip: Yes, my point and shoot takes video – very nice quality video as a matter of fact, so why carry the Flip? Because it’s a pain in the butt to email video I’ve taken with the P&S. But the Flip has software that makes it super easy to blast email the grandparents! As for the iPhone?  Well, now you’re talking instant gratification. Baby does something cute, Grandparents know in a matter of MOMENTS. Especially the ones hip enough to receive SSM.

And I haven’t even scratched the surface of the myriad of camera apps available in the App Store that transform the iPhone into all manner of toy cameras. But that’s a post for another time.  Right now, I’d like to know what you’re shooting with out there, and what you love or hate about your cameras.  I truly would.

Tangled Up In Burlesque

In standing with our family tradition we hit the movie theaters this holiday weekend.  We ended up seeing what I thought were going to be two very different flicks.  I discovered to my delight I really saw the same movie presented in two radically different ways.  The first film I caught, Tangled, I brought my daughter.  The second movie, Burlesque, my daughter won’t be seeing until she’s thirty.  But I enjoyed them both.

Tangled is an endearing film with brilliant animation, cute songs, and the distinct ability to make me consider owning a chameleon. Burlesque is racy yet tastefully done, with terrific songs and absolutely to-die-for boudoir costuming.

Both films are stories of a pretty little blonde girl seeking freedom, love, and self-discovery.  They both subvert authority to achieve this, encounter some tasty forbidden man-fruit (yes, I did just refer to an animated character as tasty, what of it?), and fulfill their dreams.  Both movies hold a couple very nasty little brunettes who get the in the way a lot.  Tangled features an surprisingly entertaining character, a horse named Max.  Burlesque has Stanley Tucci.  Really, these two alone are reasons enough to go see either film.

I laughed quite a bit in both theaters.  I won’t be surprised to see both these movies make their appearances at the Oscars this year.  Tangled for animation, Burlesque for costumes, and they’ll be battling each other to the death for Best Music.  I think Pokemon is a perfect way to settle this battle, but the Academy seems to favor other techniques.

GeekMoms will be pleased to know that despite the flicks being musicals at their cores, both have story lines that aren’t completely laughable.  There is love, betrayal, a few unexpected twists (though not many – don’t go expecting Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind here.  It’s still just Disney and Cher…they can’t get THAT complex), greed, and the bad guys defeat themselves.  Never fear; that wasn’t a spoiler for either.

Burlesque is definitely a “find a babysitter” show. The costumes are skimpy but not unnecessarily so; it is called Burlesque for a reason.  The producers apparently invested a lot of time and effort to portray the best bits of the burlesque stage shows in their movie.  I admit to never having seen the Broadway show so I have no frame of reference to compare.  But the movie alone left me walking away impressed.

Cher was given only one gratiutous song.  Personally I’m not the hugest Cher fan so I could have done without it.  But I suppose the gal has to be given her due.  She has some pipes whether I like them or not.  Christina Aguilera isn’t the best actress but she wasn’t a distraction and her voice definitely makes the film. Luckily, she isn’t so terrible viewers find themselves begging for the next song just so she’ll shut up.  Cam Gigandet is smoldery and a good choice on the casting director’s part.  My next boyfriend is definitely going to need eyeliner and some Famous Amos cookies.  (See the movie and both of these references will make PERFECT sense.)

Tangled is a great film for the family.  None of the jokes were close to the line of inappropriate.  Trying my hardest I can’t find anything I thought was questionable.  For instance, I struggled justifying Shrek for my daughter’s viewing.  That comes awfully close to that line for me.  Tangled rises above the need for pointless innuendo to entertain the adults that have been dragged there by their eight-year-olds.

It is primarily for a female audience.  Your sons might enjoy it but there is only a touch of action and mostly mushy-gushy stuff.  It is rated PG for “Mild Violence” but for the life of me I couldn’t find why.  I think this one is a case of the censorship board going a little hog-wild on what constitutes violence.  There was nothing worse in Tangled than any of the fight scenes in Princess and the Frog, Beauty and the Beast, and Little Mermaid.  And all those were rated G.

Altogether both movies are good catches for the holiday season.  If need be, the GeekMom can bribe the significant man in her life to go to Tangled by promising Burlesque.  I’m a total cheapskate and would encourage paying the theater prices for both movies.  It completes the experience and digital sound is the best way ever to hear both scores.

10 Things to Know About Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The film adaptation of the last book in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series has been split into two installments: I went to see  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 last night with two tweens, James and Michael, and three teens, Rose, Jon and Ben. Afterwards, we all went out for pizza and discussed the movie.

1.  How did we like it?

One of my main criticisms of the “Harry Potter” movie franchise has been that the films have often sacrificed character development at the claw-footed altar of frenetic action sequences—particularly as the books became longer and more politically-nuanced. It seemed that in the films, each character was permitted to express only one emotion or trait–for Harry, it was stoicism; for Hermione, an intelligent, pedantic resourcefulness; for Snape, a love affair with the baleful, lingering glance; for the Weasley twins, rambunctious good humor, etc. This is not to say that I haven’t found each of the movies varying shades of deeply-enjoyable. When you weave together a cast of such Dickensian numbers, the overall emotional effect can still be one of richness and depth…

However, this particular installment of the story has occasionally been criticized for not having as much action as its hyper-kinetic counterparts—has even been accused of  dragging in places–though, not by my review team, who summarized their feelings about the movie in broadly positive terms: “Brilliant!” “Beautifully filmed!” “It grabbed me in right from the very beginning!”

In short, we all appreciated the deeper look inside the heads and the hearts of the characters Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows offers, and still felt like there was a satisfying amount of action and surprise. This movie is a departure from the other films with good reason: Harry, Ron and Hermione must grow up and move beyond Hogwarts and the protective care of the adults in their lives if they are realistically going to find the pieces of Voldemort’s soul that have been divided into horcruxes, subsequently destroy Voldemort and his cadre of death-eaters, and bring their world-order back into a peaceful balance. In light of this all-consuming struggle against evil, the more-subdued, less-whimsical tone of the movie made sense to all of us.

2.  Favorite scenes?

The animated reenactment of “The Tale of the Three Brothers” and the deathly hallows of the title was unanimously admired. “It looked very Tim Burton-like,” one panel member gushed. “It was a really good story-within-the-story, but at the same time, I sat there thinking ‘how did they imagine that? Could I do something that looked that cool?’ I liked that experience.”

Additionally, a Ministry of Magic courtroom scene with hovering dementors was pronounced “extremely creepy” while a scene early on with seven identical Harry Potters was revisited with lots of laughter.

3.  Favorite characters?

Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix LeStrange was deemed horribly insane (“But I couldn’t take my eyes off of her”) and Dobby the House Elf was greeted like an old friend (“I missed him!”).  However, the real honors went to Rupert Grint’s Ron Weasley: “Anytime he was on the screen, he warmed it up,” my sole female reviewer claimed. “It is almost like Harry is about the action and Hermione is the brains, but Ron is the heart of their team. And everyone else really needs him around in order to keep trying.”

The rest of the panel nodded at this assessment in silent agreement.

4.  Did we think the middle part dragged on too long?

No.

5.  Anything inappropriate?

One of my tween compatriots wanted to make sure that parents were forewarned about the intensity of a kiss that takes place towards the end of the movie–and the rest of my panel immediately concurred—though some panelists clearly remembered the scene with great fondness, as well. “I think the last pieces of my childhood exploded into ashes at that point,” another panelist sighed contentedly.

The scene in question, part of a living-nightmare sequence for Ron, involves a kiss between Harry and Hermione that in interviews Daniel Radcliffe described as  both “vigorous” and “like kissing an animal.” In this viewer’s assessment…erm…this is not hyperbole. My discomfort-o-meter ratcheted into warning territory as I realized that while all relevant parts were thoroughly enshrouded in dream-fog, the implication by the scene’s close was that the glittery, torrid embrace between Harry and Hermione was taking place without clothes. To sum: the scene was a tad too intense for my preference, though I have no doubt it was a realistic-enough depiction of a young man’s aching neurosis.

6.  Anything too scary?

“Not over-the-top scary, like Prisoner of Azkaban,” one panelist noted.

“It was actually a lot more quiet than the other movies,” remarked another panel member. “My parents stopped taking me to the Harry Potter movies in the theater because they found them too loud. This one wasn’t like that at all.”

Could it be: one person’s “boring middle” is another’s “refreshing change of pace”?

7.  How did it depart from the book?

For the most part, we liked or accepted the departures from the book. I felt that some of the characters were actually more well-rounded in the movie, particularly secondary characters like Minister of Magic Scrimgouer and Aunt Muriel (the Weasley-matriarch and resident battle-axe) who both come off in the movie as more reasonable and less like mere caricatures or foils.

One change that did bother me, and it is minute in the scheme of things, was that in the movie Harry had no real resolution to the years of emotional abuse heaped on him by the Dursleys. In the book, Harry actually shakes hands with his cousin Dudley before saying goodbye to him for what is likely the last time. At that moment Harry realizes, that in his own stunted way, Dudley has been trying to thank him ever since their mutual encounter with the soul-sucking dementors a year prior. It is a small moment of grace, but one I was happy Harry had been allowed to have after losing his parents and taking on the daunting responsibility of destroying their murderer, Voldemort.

8.  What is special about this installment?

The panel loved the friendships between the characters and remarked repeatedly on how much the characters trusted and depended on each other. Additionally, the panel enjoyed the fact that Harry, Ron and Hermione were growing into adults with a relish that, quite honestly, this reviewer could not match.

9.  How good is this movie in refreshing us on the plot and the characters?

Not at all. The movie clearly assumes that if you haven’t read the books, you have at least seen all of the previous movies, and remember them with vivid clarity.

10. Harry and Hermione vs. Harry and Ginny: Did Harry wind up with the wrong girl?

For the cultural subsection that has never read the Harry Potter books but only watched the movies, there is technically one more installment before this question is definitively answered. However, one of the delights of the movie for me was seeing Ron begin to recognize how much he cared about Hermione. When he recounts how Hermione’s voice became a beam of light in his heart guiding him to rejoin the horcrux quest, I thought, “Yes, THAT  is what Hermione needs: someone who will balance out her over-sized pragmatic logic with his over-sized heart.”

As for Harry, it seems premature to be pairing him off with anyone, what with another eight months before he meets Voldemort for their duel to the death…

Overall, our panel gave this movie six emphatic “I cannot possible wait for July 15 to see the ending” wails of infinite longing. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 is rated PG-13 and is currently in broad, unmissable release.